The word “serendipity” means “lucky coincidence.” Perhaps it is the key to understanding the mysterious forces directing human fate.
In the mid-18th century, British writer Horace Walpole invented a new word in a letter to a relative. Actually, he borrowed it from a Persian fairy tale. The author of The Castle of Otranto was likely unaware that he might have described one of the most important elements of the complexity of human fate—serendipity.
Walpole’s discovery was hardly a revelation. It was rather an observation of a man who enjoyed playing with words and appreciated his own inventiveness. It is unlikely that anyone besides Horace Mann—the American politician and distant relative to whom Walpole wrote at the time—would notice this moment. It all happened in quite ordinary circumstances: sitting at home, writing a letter. Instead of shouting “Eureka!”, Walpole wrote to Mann: “I have nothing better to tell you […].” Most importantly, however, the matter concerned the word serendipity. It wouldn’t cure disease or solve hunger, but Walpole did something that all great explorers do—he opened up a whole new space and illuminated it, so that people could enter and see for themselves. A few centuries later, the idea of serendipity would become a field of inquiry for academics wishing to explain the mysterious forces directing human fate, as well as a modern tool for conducti